Welcome back to Sweet Saturday Samples! This week’s excerpt is from my contemporary historical Bildungsroman Little Ragdoll, Chapter 43, “‘Don’t Get Above Your Raising.'” It’s January 1972, and 17-year-old Adicia has agreed to go out socially with 19-year-old Ricky, her rich new neighbor from up the street who’s smitten with her. Though they live only a street apart, they’re in separate neighborhoods due to how the northern, gentrified section of the Lower East Side broke away to form the so-called East Village in the mid-Sixties. Adicia’s big brother Allen isn’t too happy when he discovers them together.
This scene contains one of the pieces I wrote during my biggest editing and revising phase. I’m a sinistral chauvinist who always includes at least several lefties in every cast of characters, but this time I’d totally forgotten. The book now boasts 13, plus a few babies whose left-handedness hasn’t had time to manifest yet.
That Sunday, while Justine is visiting Lenore and the girls, Adicia and Ricky are having lunch at an outdoor café in the West Village. Adicia is confident in her decision to only make friends with Ricky, nothing more, and figures having an ally on the block can’t hurt. After all, he might come in handy if she needs to run away to avoid being traded off like a piece of meat by her parents once she’s eighteen.
After their sandwich plates are cleared, a waiter brings dessert menus. Adicia looks over it long and hard before finally deciding on a blueberry turnover with powdered sugar and whipped cream on top.
“You must not have dessert too often,” he says after the waiter takes their orders.
“We have a lot of it when we visit our brother, but not at home. And I’ve only rarely gone to a real restaurant.”
He smiles at her. “In that case, I’d be happy to take you out every weekend. It’s not right for anyone to grow up not knowing what it’s like to eat out or have fancy desserts.”
Adicia looks around and then at the ground. “I’m used to it. I just like having a chance to do it when I can. Don’t feel obligated to keep taking me out. And remember, this isn’t even a date.”
Ten minutes later, the waiter returns with their desserts. Adicia sees Ricky moving his fork to the left side of his plate just like she’s doing. Across the table, Ricky smiles at her when he sees what she’s doing.
Adicia laughs. “Don’t tell me the universe put yet another lefty in my circle. That makes thirteen of us.”
“My kindergarten teacher tied weights to my hand, but that only lasted one day. My parents threatened to sue the school and get a private tutor for me if they didn’t leave me alone. I’ve never known a female lefty before. So you apparently know a lot of others?”
“Me, my sisters Emeline, Ernestine, and Justine, my brother Allen, my sister-in-law Lenore, my nieces Irene and Amelia, our four friends the Ryans, and now you. My dad was born one, but he gave into teachers tryna switch him.”
“Now I like you even more, knowing you’re one of my own.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Adicia thinks she sees her brother. Her suspicions are confirmed when he approaches their table.
“What a surprise to see you, Da—” Allen stops mid-word when he realizes she’s sitting with a stranger. “That’s not David!”
“Why would I be out with David? He lives in Poughkeepsie now.”
“Who’s David, a former boyfriend?” Ricky asks.
“He’s a really good friend of mine. We grew up together and knew each other since we were seven. He’s the brother of my sister Ernestine’s best friend.”
Allen looks at his sister and her companion in shock. “Adicia, are you out on a date?”
“No! This is just Ricky, who moved up the street from us recently. I’m just getting to know him as friends.”
“Well, in my experience, if a girl wants to get to know a guy as only friends, they don’t go out to eat. What are your intentions towards my sister?”
“To be honest, I really would like to go on a date with her, but she insists she only wants to be friends and that a poor girl and a rich boy shouldn’t get mixed up.”
Allen proceeds to deliver a long rant about how Ricky couldn’t really like Adicia, who comes from a starkly different social class, and forces his sister to come home with him before the date is over.